The new Amy Schumer TV show, Inside Amy Schumer, is the most recent breakout hit from Comedy Central. Part sketch comedy show, part standup, and part chat show, it has a little something for everyone—if you like that sort of thing. The eponymous star first blipped on the radar through her appearance on Last Comic Standing, where she made it to fourth place, beating out several more experienced male comedians who underestimated her youth and gender. Her true breakout performance, though, was as part of the gaggle of comedians roasting Charlie Sheen a couple of years ago on Comedy Central. With her own series, the comedienne could be poised to become a household name, at least among the younger demographic.
Amy Schumer is bold and brash, especially when it comes to her insecurities. This may seem a bit of an oxymoron, but it’s precisely this effortless, commiserative sort of ranting that makes her vulnerable and sympathetic—in a word, relatable—rather than just another “loudmouth broad.” This irks sister comics like Lisa Lampinelli, who held exclusive dominion over the rough-talking “insult” style for years. But while Lampinelli mocks the fragility of human relationships with jaded cynicism, Schumer manages to bring the audience in on the joke. Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly agrees. “There’s something communal about Schumer’s approach to comedy. It’s not just about punchlines. It’s about conversations.”
The conversations of the Amy Schumer TV show, however, are definitely not for all to hear. Like many of her male counterparts, Schumer is unafraid to either speak candidly about or overtly reference graphic content of a sexual or biological nature. While this may sound like nothing more than gross-out humor in an attempt to “keep up with the boys” (and to be fair, some of it is frankly disgusting), there is an underlying perspective here that is easy to overlook. Women everywhere are objectified in every conceivable way. Schumer and her writing team have taken that awareness and turned the tables as much as possible, often by simply spotlighting the kinds of experiences women are expected to either have already had, or be willing to participate in without complaint. Even in sketches where Schumer is humiliatingly self-depracating (which is many of them), that cringeworthy sympathy we feel comes from the deadly accuracy of the situation being depicted.
In one sketch, Schumer leaves after a one-night stand, convincing herself that she is in love and that her feelings are reciprocated. In a split-screen, we see Schumer picking out china patterns and tasting wedding cakes, etc., all while her “fiancé” is hanging out in his apartment, playing video games with friends and drinking beer. When Schumer calls him later that day (from the cemetery, where she has selected their burial plots), the guy doesn’t have any idea who she is. It’s over the top—and meant to be—but a pretty accurate depiction of what many women feel, at least partly, after such an experience.
In another sketch, Schumer gets a text from a guy named Robbie inviting her to “sext” with him. Panicked, she phones her friend and asks what she should do. “Just be yourself” the friend replies before abruptly ending the call. Schumer, dressed in pajamas in front of the television and eating spaghetti from a bowl with her hands like popcorn, starts several honest replies (“Tell me I am safe in my apartment,” “Hold me”) before deleting them and trying to come up with something better.
I think the show is a bit uneven right now. The writers and performers need to have more confidence in their work and let the comedy speak for itself. The “on the fly” interviews with real people on the street, while sometimes interesting, mostly are out of place here and don’t particularly add anything humorous. The one-on-one interviews are equally extraneous and slow the pace considerably. Schumer’s appeal is that, depite her coarseness, she is so relatable and human her audience will automatically go with her on whatever journey she wants to take them. But when you make too many stops, people tend to find another way to get where they want to go.
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